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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 14:22 GMT
GPs oppose health board elections
The GP's committee said elections would prompt politicial platforming
A plan to introduce elections to health boards would not improve the public's involvement in decision-making in the NHS, according to doctors' leaders.

The chair of the BMA's Scottish GPs committee said the public felt frozen out of changes in the NHS but that elections would not solve the problem.

Holyrood's Health Committee will later consider a bill which would see the public elect most health board members.

Yet, Dr Dean Marshall said the costs would divert cash from vital services.

All health board members are currently appointed by Scottish ministers.

However, Bill Butler MSP, has argued that his Health Board Elections (Scotland) Bill would make the boards more accountable.

Mr Butler's proposal has already won the backing of the trade union Unison.

Instead of looking at unnecessary legislation, the focus of this inquiry should be on how boards can improve consultation processes
Dr Dean Marshall

However, Dr Marshall said: "It is clear to us that the public and the profession do not feel involved in decisions about changes to their local health services, but introducing direct elections to NHS boards will not solve the problem.

"The current system that NHS boards are using to consult is not working, the public is not happy about decisions that are being made and they don't feel that their views are being taken into account."

He said health boards would continue to be required to consult the public on service changes regardless of whether the bill was passed or fell.

However, he added: "Instead of looking at unnecessary legislation, the focus of this inquiry should be on how boards can improve consultation processes and communicate better with the public rather than introduce expensive elections that divert much-needed NHS funding away from patient care."

Clinical need

Dr Marshall's comments came after the heads of three of the country's health boards voiced opposition to the scheme.

The doctors' professional body has also provided a submission to the committee which warns that the bill could see decisions become driven by short-term local targets, instead of long-term regional planning.

It is also concerned that elections would lead to the NHS being used as a political platform.

Dr Nanette Milne, the Scottish Conservatives' health spokeswoman, said: "The key challenge facing the NHS in Scotland is to remove politicians from micro-managing every aspect of its operation.

"The NHS should not have to respond to centrally-set political targets and directives, as is currently the case. Decisions should always be made based on local clinical need.

"The BMA is right to question whether this legislation is necessary."

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